Universiteit Leiden

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LIBC Colloquium

Wednesday 16 February 2022
Pieter de la Courtgebouw, via Zoom

A shared neural circuit for maintenance and integration of information over time

Working memory and decision-making are two essential cognitive functions for which increasingly sophisticated neurobiological models have been developed in recent years. Prominent classes of these models share key features – generation of persistent neural activity through recurrent excitation within stimulus-selective populations of neurons, and inhibition between these populations – which has led to the suggestion that both maintenance (subserving working memory) and integration (subserving deliberative decision-making) of information over time are implemented within the same neural circuits. I will present new lines of convergent evidence that support this idea. I will show how tabula rasa recurrent neural networks trained to perform both working memory and decision-making tasks recapitulate the same basic circuit configuration and activation patterns as the hand-crafted neurobiological models and that, critically, memory and decision states within these trained networks are generated in the same circuit. I will present preliminary non-invasive electrophysiological data suggesting that humans exploit this same solution, highlighting a generalization of the task-relevant neural representations across tasks. I will also suggest a mechanism – dynamic modulation by brainstem arousal systems – by which this shared circuit might be tuned to produce stable memory states that are robust to distraction in some contexts, versus labile decision states capable of integrating multiple information samples in others. This work promotes an integrative perspective of working memory and decision-making that holds promise for understanding disorders of the brain that are characterized by deficits in both functions.

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